Incoming Police Commissioner a Veteran Insider Who Rose Up the Ranks

The incoming police commissioner is a veteran insider of the force, a man who rose up the ranks after a childhood spent in Brooklyn. NY1's Michael Scotto filed the following report.

After Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced James O'Neill as the city's next police commissioner, the longtime police officer started to choke up as he honored his mother for teaching him the lessons that have helped him to rise through the ranks.

"Because of her, I learned we could change the world into what we want it to be and that it's much, much more than just about one's self," O'Neill said.

Described as a cop's cop, O'Neill began as a transit officer in 1983 after a childhood spent in Brooklyn. Over the next 33 years, he would go on to become a commanding officer at precincts in East Harlem and the Bronx, as well as the head of the Narcotics and Fugitive Enforcement Divisions.

When William Bratton returned in 2014, he gave his old friend a huge promotion, naming him chief of patrol and then chief of department.

O'Neill is best known for being the architect of the city's neighborhood policing program, a policy aimed at improving the relationship between officers and the people they protect.

"He began to see how even though crime was coming down, the community was getting further and further away from the NYPD, and he understood that that was not sustainable and that the department had to change the way it does business and repair that breach," said Richard Aborn of the Citizens Crime Commission.

Observers say O'Neill is also well-positioned to improve morale within the ranks, which has suffered considerably in recent years.  

NY1 spoke by Skype with Joseph Giacalone, who once worked with O'Neill. He said the new police commissioner's management style is much different than both Bratton's and Former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's. Bratton was seen as a delegator, Kelly a micromanager. 

"He's really the opposite of both Bratton and Kelly. He's more toward the center," Giacalone said.

Those skills will be tested when he takes over in September. For now, though, he and his family are soaking in the moment.

"I am in awe. I'm so thrilled for him and proud of him," said Helen O'Neill, James O'Neill's mother.

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